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British Columbia Vancouver real estate firm’s owner steps aside in wake of investigations

New Coast Realty is under a series of restrictions from B.C. regulators.

Ben Nelms/The Globe and Mail

A Vancouver-area real estate brokerage firm says its owner has stepped aside from daily operations as the company faces at least two investigations following reports in The Globe and Mail about its business practices.

New Coast Realty is already under a series of restrictions from regulators, including that an approved managing broker take over operations. A new managing broker has been appointed from within New Coast.

The Globe reported earlier this month on training sessions conducted by New Coast owner Ze Yu Wu. An audio recording of one session last October featured Mr. Wu, speaking in Mandarin, coaching agents on how to earn quick commissions by talking homeowners into selling their homes for less than they want by persuading them the first offer is always the best.

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The Real Estate Council of B.C., the industry's self-regulator, imposed a list of conditions on New Coast, including that Mr. Wu no longer be allowed to conduct such training sessions. Mr. Wu is not a licensed real estate agent or managing broker. The council also also ordered the appointment of the new managing broker.

The Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver, a trade association that also enforces its own code of conduct, is conducting a separate investigation. "Company owner Ze Yu Wu has voluntarily stepped aside and will have no role in the operations of New Coast Realty until investigations by the council and board conclude," the company said in its statement. "Operations of the company offices are being overseen by managing brokers approved by the Real Estate Council of British Columbia."

Alyn Edwards, a media consultant hired by the company, confirmed the council recently approved Edwin Yan as managing broker. According to the real estate council's website, Mr. Yan has been licensed as a managing broker with New Coast since at least August, 2015. He was featured in a recent New Coast training manual among the company's management.

The council could not be immediately reached for comment.

New Coast, through its lawyer, has previously denied the allegations detailed in The Globe's coverage, and Tuesday's release repeated those denials. It said Mr. Wu's audio recorded statements were taken "out of context," insisting that Mr. Wu's instructions about accepting the first offer was aimed at bringing down a seller's unrealistic expectations.

The statement also says Mr. Wu told his agents to act ethically and within the rules.

The company's statement also includes responses to specific cases outlined in The Globe's coverage, denying wrongdoing in each instance. It ends with a broad denial that either the company or Mr. Wu has ever acted unethically or illegally. "They [allegations against the company] are unsubstantiated and unsupported by any evidence or specifics," the statement says. "They appear to come from anonymous sources in competition with New Coast."

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The Globe's reporting included five specific cases. There are three complaints from consumers, who provided sales records, e-mails and an audio recording to back up their claims, as well as two specific written complaints from realtors, who asked that their names be withheld.

The Globe also reviewed internal MLS, land titles and other records on dozens of New Coast transactions, as well as court documents and company literature. About two dozen sources provided additional information. Although some of the industry sources work for a new, competing brokerage firm, several others do not consider themselves in direct competition with New Coast.

In an interview with the Chinese-language publication Sing Tao earlier this month, Mr. Wu indicated he will make improvements. According to a translation of the article, Mr. Wu said "there is an urgent need to reflect on and improve the company's business model, and to be more tolerant and make less enemies."

Sing Tao reported that Mr. Wu said New Coast "welcomes the investigation and supervision," and he "admits that they need to reflect on the existing business model, summarize and draw lessons in order to make it better."

ktomlinson@globeandmail.com

Editor's Note: The original newspaper version and an earlier digital version of this article gave an incorrect date for how long Mr. Yan has been licensed as a managing broker with New Coast. This digital version has been corrected.

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